My Review of the Emperor’s Assassin by Autumn Bardot

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History paints her as the first female serial killer…

Locusta is the daughter of a winemaker in the Roman province of Gaul. She enjoys the indulged childhood of the elite, her concerns only about the day’s amusements. She rides gentle ponies, attends parties, reads Ovid, and learns the herbal arts from her servant. But the day after meeting her betrothed, Locusta discovers the consequences of possessing such dangerous knowledge.

Ordered to leave her pastoral life, Locusta is thrust into a world of intrigue, scandal, and murder—where treason lurks behind every corner and defying an emperor means death. Locusta’s life changes forever when a young Emperor Nero requires her herbal expertise. And commands her to be his personal poisoner. Caught in an imperial web, Locusta must embrace her profession or die.

Or is there another way out?

History paints her as the first female serial killer. Or is she yet another maligned woman in history?

My Review (Contains Spoliers)

I reviewed the Dragon Lady by Autumn Bardot, which is an excellent historical novel based in the South-China Sea. This is a novel you should get, and it is a pleasure for me to be reviewing another novel of hers again. Buy this book NOW! This novel contains sexual violence.

Ultimately, this novel is about silent violence, sexual violence, the murky and misery of Roman politics. But it is also about the loss and misery of goodness. Corruption has become the ultimate winner in this novel under Nero’s reign. Corruption of power in a ruthless empire causes people with good nature to turn into the worst monsters unimaginable.

This novel had me seeing how a young innocent girl from Gaul was tainted by the corrupted politics of Rome. No one ever sees themselves as the villain. The villain isn’t someone you want to be. Where in any story does the villain benefit? The villain may be rich, but happiness is fleeting. Even if you are a hero, there is not much you can do. Too much good and too much bad is neither welcome, for a balance is needed. This novel showed the maturity of Locusta.

Some minor nitpicks that I found was more telling than showing, but that’s one nitpick of mine. I would have wanted to be seen more scenes displaying Locusta’s development from turning from a humble girl into the madness that depicts her as she carries out the murky depths of her infamous secret. More scenes would have helped. When I compare this to Dragon Lady, the Pirate Queen had a lot more development as we saw everything and how as she became Queen began to dismiss the feelings of others. That being said, Lucius was an absolute bastard of the highest kind. No words of happiness for him.

You cannot help but feel sadness as Locusta loses herself, her soul, and the ones she values the most. The amount of loss is unimaginable on the scale before. I have covered Nero before in one of my book reviews, though I understand the author’s intentions of going for a more volatile approach. Nero was insane by the time of his rule, but that didn’t rule out his competence. The problem was, many of these rumors were written when he was removed from power. So we will never get a true picture of what the politicians thought of him, but to say his sexual scandals were off the rooftop is no understatement. His wives suffered a lot, especially because it reminded me of Henry VIII of England who was smart and ambitious at the start, but then ended up removing his wives one by one. Nero had some competence in administration because Henry didn’t.

Marcus is also a great character, but I would have wanted to see more of him. How he kept in touch with Locusta more often. Their attraction is clear from the start to each other. I thought this was great chemistry! We also saw that Locusta leaped into the murky depths of her dark secret, Nero became madder. I guess when you’re the Emperor of the world, and you hold dominion over everyone, it is hard to resist the tentacles of corruption.

The Prose? Check

The Writing Style? Check

The dialogue? Check

My rating: 5.5

BUY THIS NOVEL NOW! It’s a spellbinding novel that’ll have you disagreeing with the character, holding your tears back, and make you feel both love and loss together.

My Review of Dark Shores by Danielle L Jensen

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High seas adventure, blackmail, and meddling gods meet in Dark Shores, a thrilling first novel in a fast-paced new YA fantasy series by USA Today bestselling author Danielle L. Jensen.

In a world divided by meddlesome gods and treacherous oceans, only the Maarin possess the knowledge to cross the Endless Seas. But they have one mandate: East must never meet West.

Teriana is the second mate of the Quincense and heir to the Maarin Triumvirate. Her people are born of the seas and the keepers of its secrets, but when her closest friend is forced into an unwanted betrothal, Teriana breaks her people’s mandate so her friend might escape—a choice with devastating consequences.

Marcus is the commander of the Thirty-Seventh, the notorious legion that has led the Celendor Empire to conquer the entire East. The legion is his family, but even they don’t know the truth he’s been hiding since childhood. It’s a secret he’ll do anything to protect, no matter how much it costs him – and the world.

When an Empire senator discovers the existence of the Dark Shores, he captures Teriana’s crew and threatens to reveal Marcus’s secret unless they sail in pursuit of conquest, forcing the two into an unlikely—and unwilling—alliance. They unite for the sake of their families, but both must decide how far they are willing to go, and how much they are willing to sacrifice.

My Review:

(Warning contain spoliers)

Dark Shores is everything I want in a fantasy novel. First, it is not often we get Roman-inspired fantasy. Second, this has all the intrigues and double backstabbing politics of Rome. Third. We get Roman ships. I repeat. Roman ships. Storms. Oceans. Colonization on a scale that we would never see except maybe imagine the Romans colonizing the Americas which they never did.
This novel is Teriana and Marcus’s journey together. They encounter strange lands, mysterious armies, an island where his legion takes command. This has all the usual tropes of a Simon Scarrow novel set in Rome, and that is a compliment. Marcus is strong-headed but refuses to enter politics. Same as Cato in the Eagles Series by Simon Scarrow. He’s strong and will-headed but stubborn as a mule.

Teriana is an heir to the Maarin Triumvirate and the novel displays her maturity as she grows from heir to almost a leader. I did feel the relationship needed a bit more pages to show the attraction between the two.
What also intrigues me, is that Marcus’s plans also foreshadow that the Empire may be intent on conquering different lands to distract the populace. The amount of good and bad is always put into peril. Why is that? Power commands everything.

You could be good or bad, but corruption eventually hits you in the end. I wanted to get an insight into the Maarin Culture, and I was not sure whether the Maarin ship was medieval or ancient. A little more detail on that would be nice.

One of the strengths of this novel is that the Maarin was trading between the West and the East. They kept the secret from the Empire. This reminds me of the Parthians, who made it in their foreign policy to never allow the Chinese and the Romans to interact with each other.

One could imagine what would have happened and could have been a crazy alternate history in itself. I was not sure about what is in the East. Will we see a Shogunate inspired nation? A Chinese inspired Empire? I can’t wait.

I’d also like to see dueling Phalanxes and the Greeks/Persians. I would love to see the cities of Ziggaurets. This is what I want. A fantasy that has the Ancient World. A fantasy that has Ancient Egypt (please please please please please please can we have this?) I want fantasy from the Bronze Age. I want this type. I like Medieval fantasy sure, but I also want to see MORE of this. This has the best writing, best dialogue. Either way, you’re on a journey.

My request to the excellent author, let us have Marcus and Teriana develop their relationship as they go to new lands, enter into forbidden temples, have Indiana jones styles plots, etc. We often have Medieval fantasy doing this, but we don’t get it enough with this Roman-inspired fantasy novel. I want and wish to see a map of this novel. I want to see the world. I want MORE.

Because this is in a way, a fantasy novel that would have been published in the 1970s/1980s that has excellent writing. It is comparable to Kirk Mitchell who wrote an alternate Roman series in where the Romans battled the Aztecs. It’s on that scale.

My rating: 5/5. This novel has made me enjoy so much I can still remember vivid scenes though I don’t wish to spoil too much. I already want to read the sequel because the novel is great.

UK Amazon Link